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I’ve been in bands, I organised nights, I’ve run venues.  So I was wondering why it is that live music venues seem to be slowly dying.  Let’s ask a few questions.

Venue Managers / Landlords – Back in the old days, you could put any old rubbish on and people came to your pub.  They had disposable income, and there was a sense of community (I’ll probably use that word a lot).  Time have changed, there are literally hundreds of things for people to do.  Big name acts & festivals sell out in minutes, so why should people come to your venue?

A lot of places still rotate the same stale old acts, and wonder why no one new comes in.  If you’re in a band, you contact these places and get told you’ll be on “the list”, if they actually have the common decency to reply at all.  Customers get annoyed with it, and when they get a new option, they go there.

Let’s not forget, regardless of live music running any venue is hard work.  They haven’t got as much disposable income to spend on bands, so they spend it wisely.  Those same old stale bands, bring in friends that come every time = guaranteed income.  Boring, but true.

Bands – There are literally thousands of bands, originals, covers.  To be brutally honest a lot are rubbish (though you’ll find worse cover bands than any original project).  Remember it’s a competitive market, if there are so many bands, why should venues book you?  A lot of the time bookings don’t equal talent, how many times have you called a venue to be asked “what following do you bring”.  If you hear that, don’t bother as they’re using your band to get people in.  If it was a decent venue with an appreciative crowd it wouldn’t matter.

Promoters – As with venue managers and bands, there are some brilliant promoters and some bad promoters.  If you offer a band an “exposure” gig, unless you’ve heard of the venue it’s a waste of time.  We were recently offered a percentage of door take gig on a Thursday night, who on earth goes out on a Thursday.  “Well if you bring 100 people”…  It’s a good point, if we bring 100 people I’ll just hire a venue and do it myself without the middle man.

Which brings me to advertising, and is the job of everyone, unless of course you’re using a promoter in which case that’s their job.  Venues should advertise themselves, all decent bands advertise, and if you use a promoter it’s a given.

Finally, and this is the hardest…  Customers.  A lot of people don’t go out to listen to live music, outside your circle of friends (remembering if you’re reading this, you’re probably in a band, and likely so are your friends) unless Justin Bieber is at Wembley my mate down the local doesn’t seem appealing.  A lot of younger people have a binge drinking culture, a bottle of wine at home, then an hour in the pub once they finally pile in at midnight.  If they just came to the venue, they could have entertainment put on for them (paid for by the drinks they buy), and everyone’s a winner.

So, the answer…  Frankly there isn’t one, and don’t forget there are some venues that do this really well.  Also it’s different depending on the venue, the bands, the region etc. etc.

  • Get good bands, and mix them up.  Keep a few “staple” bands in as regulars
  • Advertise, this is for everyone.  Social media is a powerful thing people.
  • Have a nice venue.  How many live music venues would you take your parents to?  Sticky floors, stench of unwashed floors.  Times have changed, hire a cleaner.

Do everything well, and you’ll likely do well.